Prejudice In Skating

Let us examine a number of questions.

If skating is a sport that rewards high jumps, how come nobody's ever heard of Zhengxin Guo?

If skating is a sport that rewards grace, how come nobody can spell the Soviet skaters' names?

If skating is a sport that is automatically determined on the basis of nationality, how come there were so many inroads made on the part of skaters from other countries (than which, I presume we don't have to mention) at the Olympics? Or didn't you notice?

If skating is a sport that rewards individual expression, how come being an Elvis Stojko fan is almost a cyber license to be shot at on certain fan boards? The ones that call themselves "civilized?"

If skating is a sport that should be judged on the basis of individual performance, how do you explain certain Canadian ice dancing results?

If skating is a sport that rewards the ballistic jumpers, then how do you explain the lack of Canadian results in women's skating?

If skating is a sport that reflects the American ideal, how come the skaters who live up to that ideal get booed and laughed at?

If skating is a sport that rewards length of time in the sport....well, if you have an American passport, I shouldn't even have to say any names, now should I?

If skating is a sport that rewards winning above all else, then why the fuck is Tara Lipinski not a goddamn national hero?

Fans are illiterate. Fans are dumb. Fans refuse to think for themselves.

If you've made it this far, you're probably not in the above category, or else you're just looking for material to pick on.

But it does need to be said.

Get over it and look at the fucking skating.

Get your mind off the damn remotes and watch your kids do their thing.

And if I hear one more "Did Michelle fall?" comment, I'm liable to throw something.

I used at one point to hang out on a skating chat board where all the above criteria were at one point used to evaluate what the sport should be. Those criteria were at some point broken by the very people who enunciated them. Nine for nine.

I have wanted to go off on this chat board for a long time. It seems I have much to say that I have not yet vented.

If you used to know someone named Tonya, Atra, or Susanne, I may very well be talking about you.

Hold your damn ears. Everybody else does around here.

Fan clubs that do a less than acceptable job of promoting the skaters whose names they carry. I won't tell you which one of those stupid alliteratively-named fan clubs I had the distinct privilege of watching someone I believe to have been the skater in question (yes, you, dear) stumble around in for five minutes, try to bring some decent kind of order and depth to the discussion, and log off in what had to be a very, very upset state.....and by the way, dear. I agree. They really could have picked a better name....

The very people who should be being relied on for crucial information about a skater being made fun of, even by other fans of that skater. I am taking a chance here, but I will go ahead and post this pending this person's approval. We were privileged to have someone reporting directly in from the Mariposa rink in Ontario where Elvis Stojko trained. Who had the ability to sit in on daily practices. I can remember even other Elvis fans not wanting to hear it. And fans of the other skaters positively made this poor person's life miserable. "Obsessed." "Can't you find something better to do with your life?" Besides talking about how X skater's dance belt showed up one time, you mean?

And a general lack of understanding of what skating was all about. Even the most gently-phrased comments designed to bring some light into a discussion that was rapidly going bad were pounced on as obviously being press-generated, technically incorrect, and just plain unfair. (Which labels I am quite ready to throw back at the respondents in question. Any day of the damn week. Because they were.)

It seems there are two worlds: The one the skaters live in and the one the fans talk about.

They aren't the same thing.

I'm terrified to go look at Campbell's tour reviews. I really am. I feel for these skaters.

Looked good. Looked awful. Missed a jump. I don't like the costume.

I've been doing skating as long as I can remember, and if the rest of this site doesn't speak for my familiarity with the sport, then I don't know what will.

I have serious doubts as to whether we were talking about the same performances.

I really do.

True, this is the Net. True, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Besides me, huh?

Kiss my ass.

I am drawn to one particular area of concern just because of its sociological interest: The Todd/Ilia/Elvis wars.

Now I have no information whatsoever that these three gentlemen have any animosity whatsoever toward each other besides that generated by the desire each to get the best medal they can, which occasionally means displacing another one.

But you put an Elvis fan and a Todd fan in the same room, you're liable to have blood on the keyboards. And Ilia fans just don't have time for it -- they're too damn above it all.

Elvis fans will feel incredibly picked on. Todd fans will feel insulted that no one recognizes the natural superiority of their skater. (This is before The Improvement. Which half of them didn't even notice...) And Ilia fans, dare I say, are having too much trouble figuring out how to pronounce his name....I really have to ask. Do they finally feel that they have the spelling ability to like a Russian skater without embarrassing themselves? Is that they almost routinely put their noses in the air?

I have observed these three men getting along just fine aside from the occasional comment, natural to three highly-ambitious young men who are all after the same thing. And who are from completely, I said completely different cultures. One more time. Completely.

All Elvis/Ilia/Todd fans are risking is a moment's disappointment in front of the TV. The vast majority of them have grown up in the same culture.

Yet I won't even venture near many of them. I can get along with a lot of "Elvis fans" because their appreciation is based on his technical ability and his distinctive style, and many of them respect his committment to himself.

But now...that Todd hasn't missed a jump in -- how long? and is really starting to project like a (oh my God) mature, European-style, old-type skater.....

Now...that Ilia has finally tacked some edges under that phenomenal showmanship.....

And now...that God...finally has some competition (which he didn't really used to do around these parts).....

I don't think I want to go back and look. I'd abandoned the board anyway.

I was considering dropping this essay on them just for the fun of it....

But I don't think so.

It was bad then.

I think I'll spare myself now.

People intensify their hatred in the strangest, most awful ways....

"Civilized," huh?

Kiss my ass.

Do you realize how many name skaters dove in and out of that chat room trying to get people to listen? You can spot them. I won't tell you how.

I counted at least five.

They were spottable (hi there, hello to you too, how ya doing?) before Nagano.

During the time I cruised through after Nagano and around Worlds time, I spotted none.

I gather they feel the same way I do.

Some of you would be very glad to know who you apparently made cry......

Hell, probably all of you would.

Go to hell.

Just go to fucking hell.

Edges or no edges, projection or no projection, that was a human being.

You just don't do that, assholes.

Sure, you "really like (X skater)".

You live with that person 24 hours a day....skate in the same costumes....and live with those results a lot more closely than anyone else on that board ever will.

I bet you "really like" them. Seeing as their medal collection probably hangs on your wall.

I ain't going back either.


Tara Vs. Michelle: The Ultimate Web War

Beanie Babies flying through cyberspace.

An elegant toepick drawing a line in the ice between Detroit and Lake Arrowhead.

Could it have happened?

What I'm picturing is this: Arranged just for fun. A way to get some tensions out. Pick a chat room. Any chat room. They log on using fake names. Then the show begins.

"Tara can't skate!"

"Michelle can't skate!"

"Tara can't land a jump properly. What's all this technical deal?"

"Um...was that a spiral Michelle was trying? Looked more like a footwork sequence..."

Multiple fans would try to stop "the rehashing of a battle that nobody's going to win. Calm down. Don't you have anything better to do with your time?"

Comes the mutual "Nope." from both keyboards. With subtle Tara/Michelle snipes coming from other corners of the chat room nonstop anyway...Come on, girls, get it out in the open!

"I hate Michelle's dress!"

"Tara even calls that thing a dress?"

"Why isn't Tara in kindergarten?"

"Why isn't Michelle married already? She acts like it!"

Fans scrambling out of the way. One moderator trying (unsuccessfully) to calm things down. Skate blades being whopped on heads at an alarming rate.

Technical data flying across the chat room that I can't imagine either one intended to let slip...was Richard Callaghan in the room? With Tara? Logged on? Was that him?

Where was Frank Carroll? Was that him?

And who in the hell was the motherly-sounding stranger intervening for Tara now and then?

Strangers usually sit silent, but not so silent as that one....Hmmm...plotting the second act?

And do I even want to know who "Keisha" was?

Maybe I'm making it up, but how else do you explain the scenario?

Sorry to say. They kissed and made up.

Round Two

Assuming that was Elvis Stojko...

And that was Todd Eldredge....

Glorious. Just glorious. As the Kurt Browning debate raged on around them....

Um, Elvis, did they not tell you how sneaky he was? This boy's mean.

Five-time American champion. This is figure skating, not bumper pool.

In the land of Dorothy Hamill...edges are not how you stay on top.

It was like watching Anatoly Karpov take apart the kid next door at a pickup chess game.

I've been an Elvis fan for years and generally have held my nose at the mention of the name Eldredge.

But could anyone but a sneaky-boy little championship skater have executed that particular takedown...and could anyone else have been as open to it as Elvis was?

Elvis, Elvis, Lord, didn't they tell you? Boy plays to win!

Also, guys, be very careful how you post private messages. That chat program is nasty to slip and put them public. Takes 2-3 hours' chat practice. Which I'm willing to bet neither one of you had.

Was I the only one who even blinked an eyelash? Three of the chatroom "experts" were in there, plus two stone Elvis fans. I just hunkered down and watched. Ummm...did Doug Leigh tell you you could say that?

The technical level of the discussions could not have been duplicated by anyone who had not placed fifth or higher in a major skating country's national championships. That was an innocent, commonsensical Canadian. Quite obviously. And that was just as obviously a sneaky, camera-prepared (shall I say) Americano boy. Who at least had some idea where the edges of his skate blades were.

Todd, will you please tell me how in the fucking hell you got Elvis to the point where he was willing to say he couldn't even skate?

After he'd just whipped your little pea-picking ass judge by judge in Nagano? I missed the first few minutes. Didn't quite catch the start of it all.

"And Elvis only has the technical brilliance, right?"

Possibly the greatest words ever spoken in skating....

Unh Uh. No. No Way.

Batten down the hatches. It was Them.

You're figure-skating fans. This was around Nagano. It wasn't two this time, but four.

Must've just stepped off the ice...Lord, skating fans, who do you think I'm talking about?

Full-tilt catfight doesn't even begin to describe it. I will say that at least the fans had the grace not to continue their own argument on the subject. Woefully uneducated anyway....

One was teaching a university course in their particular discipline. One was sitting relatively quiet. One was giving out with openmouthed "Huhs?". One was arguing back with absolutely no comprehension of what was meant.

Watch it next time, guys. The fans are not sophisticated enough to know y'all know how to cuss. Picked up a few new ones there....

It was positively fucking hysterical to see who didn't catch them...who wanted to email the admin and have them thrown out of the chat room....y'all really did just about send the room into a nuclear meltdown.

"Riverdance=6.0," huh?

Fan site?



Any time.



If that's a fan site, spare me the hate pages!

What do fan sites like this do?

Make people feel miserable. Pick on people. Hold their tongue for nobody. Pick on the best. Pick on the worst. Even pick on each other.

Pass around second-hand media gossip instead of technical information about skating. Ignore anyone who tries to tell them there in any objective fashion what is going on. Often brutally.

Perpetuate the habits of hatred and not thinking for themselves, but taking what is said as truth instead of seeing if it matches up with reality.

Ignore reality completely.

Take the idea that they determine what is seen on TV just a little too far. And pat themselves on the back for having done it.

Do nothing to perpetuate the good of figure skating.

I propose they be ignored completely.

Ignore mine too if you wish.

But please, let's do something.

Believe it or not, those sequined people out there really are human beings.

I promise.

(Yes, I know.)